From the Beer Wench's Kitchen
Hosted by Brewtopia Events

Belgian Culinary Delights
By K. Allen

Article Originally Published in Southern Brew News

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The Beer Wench is a beer traveler, BJCP Certified Beer Judge and Food & Beer Columnist for Southern Brew News.

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  The Beer Wench returns exhausted but sated from a trip to the beer country, Belgium.  Of course, Belgium boasts more than just beer -- great chocolate, beautiful countryside, mannequin pis and interesting museums, but when they make more different styles of beer per capita than any other country in a place smaller than the state of Georgia, one must be impressed.

The Belgians not only have the perfect beers to pair with food but are famous for cooking with beer. While in Belgium I tasted everything from appetizers to desserts made with beer. Yes, you read correctly -- desserts! One of the desserts was an ice cream sundae made with Westvleteren 12, the best beer in the world! (Okay, that’s my opinion-but the beer is wonderful.) I was inspired. This time, I have a treat for you -- not one but two recipes. Both of these recipes require beer in the making, and they can be made much more sublime in serving the beer with the food.

The credit for the first recipe goes to Chef Brian Morin of Beerbistro in Toronto.  He owns this beer cuisine restaurant with beer writer Stephen Beaumont and generously agreed to share one of his beer dishes. This dish is a pea soup cooked with Belgian wit beer. ( I know that I’ve included a recipe with this style before, but this recipe is so yummy that I couldn’t resist.)

Cold Spring Pea Soup
with Belgian White Ale, yoghurt, crushed red pepper and mint

1 tablespoon (15 ml)  butter, unsalted
2 leeks, diced (approximately 1 cup)
1 Spanish onion, diced (approximately 1 cup)
4 cups (1 ltr.)  Belgian white ale (e.g. Blanche de Chambly)
4 cups (1 kg)  green peas, frozen or freshly shucked
1 teaspoon (5 ml)  fresh mint, finely julienned
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml)  crushed red peppercorns
1/4 cup (60 ml)  fresh orange juice
1 cups (250 ml)  Belgian white ale (e.g. Blanche de Chambly)
1/4 cup (60 m)  yogurt

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan. Add the leeks and onions and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add 4 cups (1 Ltr.) Belgian white beer, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Add peas and, working in small batches, purée in a food processor or blender. Strain the soup through a fine Chinois or strainer and chill until ready to use.

When ready to serve, finish the soup with the orange juice, mint, crushed peppercorns and the remaining cup of Belgian white ale. (This final portion of beer is not cooked so that the carbonation of the beer will lighten the soup and enhance its elegance). Ladle into chilled soup bowls and top each with a dollop of yogurt.

The soup can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Note: This soup contains no salt because Belgian white ales do not marry well with saltiness.  If you wish to add more oomph, simply add a little more orange juice

Thank you, Brian and Stephen. Chef Brian also states that this recipe will go well with rock shrimp or crab cakes on the side, but I’ve decided to include a “Southernized” version of a dish that I ate at The Hommelhof in Watoo, Belgium that fits Brian’s seafood suggestion.

The Hommelhof remains one of Belgium’s premier beer cuisine restaurants right in the middle of hop country. Hommelhof means “hopyard.” Owen and I made a point of eating lunch there twice on this trip. On the first lunch at the restaurant, we chose the beer menu which consists of four courses (one is dessert). Each course, except dessert, was served with the beer in which the food was cooked. The recipe that I am tweaking here was my favorite dish from that meal.

The dish was baked cod served over a puree of clams and mushrooms with a butter and Rodenbach sauce and garnished with whole clams. We can not currently buy Rodenbach in Georgia, although that will hopefully change soon, and clams are more a northern thing; Keeping that in mind, here is my version of Chef Stefaan Couttennye’s lovely dish.  (Stefaan, I hope you don’t consider this blasphemy.)

Catfish with Oysters and Wild Mushrooms
(Recipe created for two -- just multiply if you need more)

2 catfish filets
2 cups oyster meat
2 cups wild mushrooms
4 tbs butter (approximate)
2 tbls chopped garlic
1 bottle of Liefmans Goudenband
¼ cup tarragon or parsley (or both)

  • Marinate your catfish filets in a plastic zip bag with ½ the bottle of beer  and salt and pepper while you prepare the mushroom and oysters. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • In a skillet, heat 2 tbls of butter with two shots of Goudenband and garlic. Sauté your mushrooms and oysters in the skillet with ½ of your herbs until mushrooms are soft and the liquid has been absorbed.
  • In a blender or food processor, puree your mushrooms and oysters. Salt and pepper to taste.  Set these aside.
  • Place your fish on an oiled or buttered baking sheet and pour marinade over filets.
  • Bake fish for approximately 20 minutes at 325. Time may vary depending on your oven.
  • While fish is baking, take the skillet you used to prepare the oysters and mushrooms and add the remaining bit of butter and beer. Bring to a boil than reduce to a simmer. Add herbs for color and flavor to taste.
  • When your fish is ready to serve, spoon your mushroom and oyster mixture onto the center of the plate, lay your filets on top, drizzle beer and butter reduction on fish, and garnish with whole oysters, mushrooms and herbs. Serve with a Liefmans Goudenband.

Enjoy! Don’t be afraid of creating your own recipes out of beer. Replacing other liquid ingredients with beer to add flavor brings another dimension to your favorite recipes.

For those of you interested in the places I mentioned in this article, I have included some details below. Happy beer drinking.

18 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario

17 Watooplein
Watou, Belgium
+057 388024

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